12 Things I’ll Do Differently on Our Next Disney Cruise

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We had an absolute blast on our Disney Cruise family vacation earlier this month. We’re already talking about when we’ll take the next one, and I’m sure it’ll be just as fun as the last. But I’ve also been thinking of ways I can make it even better, and things I may do differently on our next Disney Cruise. In the third installment of our Disney Cruise vacation wrap up, I thought writing up a list could be helpful for people looking to book their first Disney Cruise. And in case you missed it, here’s Lil’ J’s Disney Cruise reveal and 10 reasons a Disney Cruise is better than a Disney Parks vacation.


Things to do on a Disney Cruise

1. Have a potty-trained kid

Hopefully this will be a given next time since Big T is almost there. He was almost perfect on the cruise and only had accidents in his free and clear training pants when he was sleeping. Sadly he’s regressed since we’ve been back, but we’re working on that.

Things to do on a Disney Cruise

This picture sums up our experience with Big T on the cruise. Dressed up in the most adorable tux from Blacn N Bianco, all untucked and dashing away from us as fast as he can.

The thing is, if your kid isn’t potty-trained on the cruise then they need to go to the nursery instead of the Kids Club. Big T wasn’t 3 yet anyway so he wouldn’t have been able to go there this time, but being close to 3 and very tall, he towered over the other kids and was sort of in a weird in-between stage of being too young for the club, but bored with the nursery. Luckily the Flounder’s Reef Nursery staff were super sweet in keeping him happy, even when he wasn’t so happy at drop off. I know next time he’ll be happy to be in with the big(ger) kids alongside his sister. And I’ll be happy to not have to schedule nursery time and use the luxury of the kids club drop off.

2. Take a shorter cruise

12 Things I'll Do Differently on Our Next Disney Cruise. Get help planning your next Disney Cruise and family vacation without stress!

Now first let me explain. We went on this cruise right after spending several days in Utah for Thanksgiving. I think the two back-to-back trips are what exhausted us more than 7-days on the ship. However, I think a 4 or 5 night cruise would have been plenty sufficient. We’d be able to eat at all of the restaurants, see the best shows, and return home before missing too much school.

3. Take more pictures

12 Things I'll Do Differently on Our Next Disney Cruise. Get help planning your next Disney Cruise and family vacation without stress!

Even though I took a lot there are SO many more I wish I had taken. Photos of the fireworks, from the top deck, pictures of the ship at night. Lil’ J pin trading, more photos of the food. I also really wish I had a speedlight flash because a lot of the rooms didn’t have window light (which I’m using to using) and were pretty dim. I’m planning to use some Christmas money to order one and play with it before next time.

4. Check out their pro photos

12 Things I'll Do Differently on Our Next Disney Cruise. Get help planning your next Disney Cruise and family vacation without stress!

There are many pro photographers around the ship ready to take your family’s pictures with characters or in front of beautiful backdrops. I didn’t want to be tempted to buy several $25 prints so I didn’t give myself much of a chance to consider more photos. I did however buy two photos that made me smile so big when I saw them. Totally worth the 50-something dollars. Next time I may consider the full photo package for $200 to get all of the prints. It seems like a lot compared to the $79 deal at Disney World, but it could be worth it to take advantage of the family photo opportunities to get in more photographs.

5. Try more food

Things to do on a Disney Cruise

My husband and I tried something different at dinner each night and every single meal was delicious. The rest of the day, however pretty much consisted of french fries (my favorite food). There is so much food you can order, either at a sit-down restaurant or in a quick-service line. I’m not sure how I could have pigged out even more, but I wish I had found a way to enjoy more of the variety.

6. Keep wipes handy

Things to do on a Disney Cruise

One thing I didn’t realize was that napkins aren’t readily available everywhere. You have to request one when you’re at the quick-service places, and if you need a tissue or something you’ll have to find a restroom. From runny noses to messy hands, we could have used a lot of handy napkins. About halfway through the trip I remembered I brought our Seventh Generation baby wipes and started using them as wet wipes, tissues and napkins. The Free and Clear Baby Wipes rock because they’re thick and strong but soft, hypoallergenic and fragrance-free. Next time I’ll keep a pack of these with my in my pool bag.


Things to do on a Disney Cruise

Bring your own cup. We bought ours, but forgot them half the time we went up on the top deck. The cups available are pretty small so it’s nice to have a bottle or cup to fill up with your favorite drink and keep with you while you lay out or watch a show in the theater.

8. Hit up more craft activities

Things to do on a Disney Cruise

Lil’ J is a huge fan of crafting and there were daily activities. We only made it to a couple through the week and regretted missing some of them after seeing the crafts people left with. Specifically the cute door hangers. Next time we will mark those activities as priorities.

9. Try Palo brunch

We LOVED Palo dinner. It was so romantic and quiet compared to the family dinners we attended the rest of the week. However, there were so many fun things going on each night it was hard to schedule a dinner between it all. Frozen night got moved to our Palo night during our sailing because of bad weather, so we had to rush through dessert to get the kids and make it to the deck party. I think brunch could have been even more delicious and less rushed. Definitely want to try that next time.

10. Do more adult activities

Things to do on a Disney Cruise

People keep asking me if there are fun things for adults on a Disney cruise. YES! From comedy shows, dinner, sports bars, spas, clubbing and more. Also there’s an adult pool and hot tub that’s much quieter up on deck. There were so many adult activities around the ship. Sadly we didn’t make it to any of them. We made this trip all about the kids, but next time, they’ll both be spending more time in the kids club and we’ll enjoy more mom and dad solo time.

11. Try an excursion

We booked the trip and decided to just enjoy the included perks for the most part. We barely browsed excursions and the ones we did try were free. My husband ran in the Castaway 5k, and that was no charge. Next time I think we may take the kids (at least Lil’ J) snorkeling. I think she’d really enjoy it.

12. Visit the other side of Castaway Cay

Things to do on a Disney Cruise

While participating in the 5k race my husband got to see the entire island. The kids and I kinda just walked off the boat and plopped down at the nearest beach. I heard the other beach on the island has water slides and rope swings. No telling if we would have done that since it was rainy most of the day we were there, but on a great weather day, I definitely think we’ll try to explore more of the island.

Things to do on a Disney Cruise

So there you have it. A dozen things I learned that you can keep in mind to make your Disney Cruise even more magical. Despite having a list of changes for next time, this trip was truly a wonderful family vacation, and I’d do it all over again just like we did the first time in a second (and take more photos!).

Have you been on a Disney Cruise before? What tips would you have for first-timers?

Things to do on a Disney Cruise

A big thanks to Seventh Generation for sponsoring this story. I’m partnering with them as I share my imperfect life and ways I’m trying to improve it with you. If being more conscious of natural cleaning products, dish soap, and eco-friendly diapers are on your list of priorities, head here for more information. As always, all opinions are my own.

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  1. Oh I wish I had shared our experience of going on the Disney Cruise with a 2 1/2 year old – I cried for not getting adequate alone time as it was the greatest anticipation for me. Disney Cruise really needs to get it together and have a space that is for the preschool age specifically – ages 2-5.

    I am still angry about the fact that my son cried and cried in the nursery and then we convinced them to let me drop him off at the bigger kid area where his brother and sister were at but then he had severe separation anxiety from having suffered 5 minutes in the nursery. I felt like Disney really ought to know better as their great target market is this age yet the cruise doesn’t seem to have a space just perfect for them.

    1. I’m so so sad your little boy cried and cried in the nursery. Big T wasn’t happy either, and every time we walked past after he shook his head like he didn’t want to go in. haha. He LOVED the kids club though. Just wish he coulda stayed there.

      That is kind of an awkward age for the little cruisers isn’t it? I feel like my son will do great in the kids club at 3, but yes, totally agree that I’d love it if they could find a way so that all the kiddos 3 and under wouldn’t hafta be in the same place. I think 2-3 especially. You’ve got a good idea going there mama.

  2. Absolutely loved the stingray encounter at Castaway Cay. It was reasonably priced as well. Also, my son loves the kids club on Castaway Cay and it allowed us to visit the adult only area.

      1. My family will be on the Dream in Feb. Our first time. The kids have no idea! Thanks so much for providing your insight. Hubby and I are very excited.

  3. My family went this past September and had THE best time. I was nervous about my 4 year old going to the Kids Club, but it took her exactly 30 seconds to wave ‘goodbye’ to us! I hung around for a few minutes and watched her, but she was absolutely fine.

    I would suggest taking several costumes for the kids. I purchased mine at Party City for $7! They were on clearance for some reason. I picked up at least 3 there. I also ordered 1 from Ebay for less than $10. For the pirate costume, ours were homemade. Black pants, white shirts, and scarf belts. They give you cute pirate headscarves for free. I also purchased eye patches from Party City.

    I would also suggest folks download the cruise app to their phones. It was a lifesaver for scheduling activities and keeping track of everything. We bought a picture package at $120 and it was worth it. Great pics!

    We hope to go back soon!

  4. Thank you for these tips. My family and I are heading off on our first Disney cruise next month. We are so excited and I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on about it.

  5. Thank you so much for your insight. We’re heading out Mid February on the Magic 5 night. I’m so excited and scared all at the same time. We’re traveling with a 2yo and 5yo so this ought to be interesting. Although we’ve got some extra help coming with us (2 aunties, a Nonna, Big uncle and 3 older cousins). Let the fun begin.

  6. I agree with you that it is good to go out and explore Castaway Cay. There are so many things to do on the island and it can be tempting just to sit down on the first beach that you see! You can always use the shuttle to get around on Castaway Cay. It can be quite a walk around to the family beach in the heat.

  7. We will be Platinum DCL members after our cruise this Feb. The one thing I would recommend, especially if you have a little girl that likes the Disney Princesses, is to familiarize yourself with your cruise page on their website. You now have to reserve the meet and greets with the princesses as well as Anna and Elsa BEFORE you get on the ship. These sell out fast so make sure you go to your page, find your activities page and schedule your meet and greets under the onboard fun area. Good luck! Oh, and throw bedtime for the kids out the porthole! You will be doing both you and your kids a favor by loosening up the rules. Otherwise you’ll miss the fireworks and buffet afterward!

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  9. We just got back from our very first cruise. We picked Disney because I am a huge Disney fan! it was really great. We were on the Fantasy. and LOVED it! I don’t know what to compare it to but the ship felt small enough to get around but still had tons of stuff to do. You got to know the people doing the activities, saw them, they knew our names.

    You were talking about ages – Mine were 11 and 16. The 11 year old was in the in between age. The Lab (ages 3-11) was fun she liked it there but a lot of times to many little kids, the Edge (age 11-14or 15 can’t remember) was ok but kids were way older. My son 16 never did visit the Vibe (14-17) He could see the sun deck for the club from his room and there was never anyone out there. I think I could have gotten them to do more it they could have gone together somewhere and not the open house times. The other problem, kids that have been several times. They ran the place, or kids in groups. So next time the oldest will be an adult anyway and the younger one will not want to do anything I am sure. Looks like I will be waiting 8 years to go again, LOl!

    Now something I wish Disney would do – those neat wrist bands the kids get to get in and out of kids clubs, hook up the room key to that and sell them to adults also! I would pay a pretty penny to have my room key on my wrist and not have to have that thing around my neck all the time!

  10. I’m going on my fourth Disney cruise this November. I just love the service and cleanliness of Disney!
    I would recommend eating lunch at one of the sit down restaurants instead of the buffet or fast food. Although the buffet is easier (especially with young kids) the sit down lunches offer a variety of food that you don’t get to enjoy during dinner.

  11. I loved your post, I just wrote a post very similar yet we talked about totally different things. lol I like reading of different perspectives from other cruisers. And your photos are stunning! What camera did you use?

  12. We are going on a 7 day cruise on the fantasy in Feb/2018. Are all purchases on the ship put on your key to the world? Or can you pay in cash?

  13. -Princess Gathering (haven’t made it yet but plan too)
    -Frozen Meet and Greet
    -Get on board as early as possible
    -don’t stress out
    -watch your spending so you don’t get sticker shock at the end
    -Put money on a gift card and add to account so you know how much you want to spend

  14. Just got off our first Disney Cruise. Fabulous time! Only hitch in trip was over engagement of Son. Hiring the photographer at $89. for one hour. Then told it would be $600 for pictures, after purchasing the photo packet of over $300. before we got on the ship. The Guest Services did an incredible job setting up the surprise.

  15. Hi Jennifer, I enjoyed your post. My husband and I are going on our first Disney cruise this month, May, in fact 6 days from now. We are taking our 4 year old grandson. Our cruise is 5 days on the Wonder out of San Diego, going to San Francisco, Victoria, and Vancouver BC. I have read so many posts on what to do that I hope I’m prepared. I pre-payed for the photo package where you pick the photos you want the last night of your cruise and they make a photo book and mail it to you when you get home. I found Mickey patterns online and made my own stateroom door magnets with craft foam. I’m taking a nightlight, hanging shoe holder with magnets to hold it, giftcard with a magnet to put on wall near switch for the light in the stateroom. I was at a fair and the water district was giving away folding refillable water bottles so I asked if I could have a bunch and they said take as many as I wanted, I grabbed 10 so they will be perfect for filling with water to take to our stateroom and on excursions, they have a belt clip attached too!
    My grandson won’t wear a pirate costume so I ordered him a pirate tee shirt.
    I will write after we get back to let you know how it went.

  16. Interesting to me that you’d do a shorter cruise next. We started on a 4 night cruise and made sure to book a 7 night for our second one. Now that we’ve done that one (last month) we want even longer! 7 nights is great because you have enough time to do all the fun things on board. We were so rushed on our shorter cruise and didn’t want to miss anything! We won’t ever do shorter than 7 night again! I’ve got my eye on the 10-14 night cruises-transatlantic or Panama Canal, or some of the longer Mediterranean/Norway ones!

  17. I loved reading your perspective, but there is one point that I’d disagree with: taking a shorter cruise. After doing a 3 night, 5 night and 7 night cruise, I would hands down recommend the 7 night every time. Considering the first day and last day of the cruise are pretty much a wash, and the amount of time that goes into preparing for such a vacation, the 7 night cruise truly allowed us to relax and enjoy EVERYTHING the cruise had to offer. Your pictures are adorable!

  18. What types of clothing did you pack? I see you wore an evening gown and your son in a tux. We are sailing out of NY in Nov and im worried the first few days will be cold. Do you have to get tickets for the evening shows?

  19. As to Disney having bands for adults, we have gone on alot of different cruises and hate wearing a lanyard around my neck. So I got a key chain that is attached to a an expandable wrist band (found at hardware stores) – I then either bring a paper punch to punch a hole in my pass key or ask at Guest Services for them to punch it. Make sure you punch it on the side not by the stripe so that it can be swiped for purchases.
    I love doing this and wonder why more people don’t do it – I have never lost my pass key yet.

  20. Well I was wrong about the wristbands – after punching holes in the master pass before we boarded, we all had to go back to the service counter and get new passes because punching holes in them deactivated them. Should have brought lanyards that had holders for the cards attached! This only works on Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines. Sorry for the misinformation! Also, don’t bring over the door pocket holders even with magnets – they confiscated all of ours at the port.

  21. We did the San Diego to Mexico cruise the last three years for Halloween. We will most likely go again. Our Disney daughter is 20. We LOVE this cruise!! The Disney Wonder has an awesome adults only pool area. I was actually shocked at how many people were on the ship without kids. We dressed up for pirate night. we dressed up for trick-or-treat night. the frozen show is absolutely spectacular. If it were my first time I would definitely make sure I brought things to decorate the doors. Even as three adults traveling together we love to see our door decorated every day. Bring a bag for the pool stuff. Pack bath and body works room spray. Bring heavy duty magnets for the back of the cabin door to leave notes or reminders.

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